When the sky goes dark and a storm rolls in, most people know not to stay out in the open or to seek refuge under a tree because of the risk of getting struck by lightning, but there is another place that should be avoided during a thunderstorm - the shower. That's because as powerful as it is, lightning can actually travel through plumbing, and in doing so, cause injury and even death.
Due to the danger involved, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a warning stating, "It is best to avoid all water during a thunderstorm. Do not shower, bathe, wash dishes, or wash your hands." Newer homes tend to have plastic pipes instead of metal ones, but that doesn't make them lightning-proof. According to the CDC, "The risk of lightning traveling through plumbing might be less with plastic pipes than with metal pipes. However, it is best to avoid any contact with plumbing and running water during a lightning storm to reduce your risk of being struck."
Thankfully, Mother Nature tends to warn us when a storm is heading our way with the sound of thunder. If you can hear a rumble, per the National Weather Service, that means the storm is within ten miles of you. And of course, where there is thunder, there is lightning. To understand just how close a storm is, you can count the number of seconds between the flash of lightning and the sound of thunder, then divide that number by five. The result is how many miles away the lightning is.
There are other places in your house to avoid during a storm too. The CDC added, "Stay off porches and balconies, don’t go near windows and doors, and do not lie down on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls." They also suggest you do not use anything connected to an electrical outlet, like a TV or a desktop computer, and that you stay off corded phones, if you still have one. Cell phones and cordless ones are okay if they aren't being charged.
As for what to do if you are outside and you get caught in a storm? Do not lie on the ground. The CDC says, "Lightning causes electric currents along the top of the ground that can be deadly more than 100 feet away. Get inside a safe location; no place outside is safe. Avoid anything that will increase your risk of being struck by lightning, such as being near or under tall trees. If there are no safe shelters in sight, crouch down in a ball-like position: put your feet together, squat low, tuck your head, and cover your ears. But remember, this is a last resort. Seek safe shelter first."
It may seem like an excessive warning but lightning is no joke. A lightning strike heats the air around the bolt to as much as 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is five times hotter than the surface of the sun. About 180 people are injured each year from lightning, and ten percent of those struck die. Most deaths and injuries take place outside, typically in the afternoon and evening hours during summer months.
You can learn more about the dangers of lightning at the CDC's website.